Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Help preserve historical and archeological sites when day hiking

Resist the urge to touch petroglyphs when hiking,
as skin oils destroy the paint pigments. 
Excitement and mystery always surrounds coming across old sites – whether it be a pioneer cabin from the 1800s or a petroglyph left on a desert cliff thousands of years ago – during a day hike. Unfortunately, the urge to engage in behaviors that diminish and even destroy these sites is strong, especially among children.

To preserve a historical or ancient site that you come across on a hike, follow these five commandments:
g Don’t remove artifacts – Doing so reduces the experience of future hikers (Would you have wanted a hiker before you to have taken away artifacts so you couldn’t enjoy them?). It’s also illegal. Instead, take pictures or make sketches of them.
g Don’t climb on sites – Though they’ve survived decades or even centuries, many of these sites are fragile structures that crumble easily and often will collapse if weight is added to it.
g Don’t touch items at a site – Skin oils actually destroy paint pigments (especially on petroglyphs) and alter the chemical composition of walls. Just brushing a finger against adobe will flake off bits of the wall.
g Don’t move items at a site – Doing so reduces archeologists’ and historians’ ability to understand the purpose and use of the items as their positions gives them context. Such items might range from potsherd to corn kernels, from bones to glass bottle fragments.
g Don’t write on site’s walls – Graffiti destroys the site and amounts to nothing less than vandalism. Such graffiti can range from spray painting to etching initials with a knife…or even writing on wood with a pencil.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.